I have had my large satsuki azalea for around six years now, and as you can see from the first pic taken about three years ago, it has never disappointed in the flower department. In fact it flowers so profusely that I have become accustomed to referring to it as the Big Girl’s Blouse azalea.
However, it had grown too far outwards for my liking so I decided two years ago to start the process of bringing the foliage back into the trunk – a process which also necessitated losing some of the height if it wasn’t to look like some gangly teenager. This wasn’t a problem as the crown was ramrod straight which didn’t tie in with the curves of the rest of the trunk. Since it seems to thrive on good old celtic air, I took it down to North Wales where Kevin B assisted me in the early cut back.
That was in July 2009 and by the end of that summer, after a few further trimmings, it looked considerably slimmer and noticeably shorter.
It wasn’t at all bonnie-looking but I decided not to do any more to it that year owing to the “unpredictability” of the Scottish winter. Picture 4 shows how it looked in late August.
I had been told that it probably wouldn’t flower because it had been cut back the summer previously, but, just to show how hardy us big girls are, in the May of 2010 it tried its best to throw out as many blooms as previously. I kept a few for show but removed the rest of the buds as it was my intention to do further pruning in the summer of 2010.
I still wasn’t happy with the crown, so I set about taking it down even further and also pulling the rest of the foliage in even more towards the trunk. That happened in the July of 2010 and by the spring of 2011 it looked much better.
The tree was kept in the unheated glasshouse over the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11, which is jsut as well as they were the coldest we’ve had for quite some time. However, it started pushing growth very early this spring and I relocated it to a sheltered spot outdoors in April. I also decided to be brave and remove a final section of the crown as there was plenty of new growth behind and to the front. At the end of April 2011 it looked as in pic 6:
I am relatively happy with the tree now but am not discounting further work. it still needs a fair bit of trimming rather than pruning to get growth where I want it, but overall I am quite pleased. I even allowed it some flowers again this year just as a well done. The last three pics show the tree on 30th May 2011: